Phoenix: Heritage Motorsports qualifying report

Mustang captures GTS pole - smokes track record The effort: "Muscle Car" took on an undesirable meaning for Tommy Riggins, yesterday in qualifying. His power steering broke on the first qualifying lap! Riggins, of course, drives the Heritage...

Mustang captures GTS pole - smokes track record

The effort:

"Muscle Car" took on an undesirable meaning for Tommy Riggins, yesterday in qualifying. His power steering broke on the first qualifying lap! Riggins, of course, drives the Heritage Motorsports Mustang GTS. Muscling the heavier GT-class car around this windy facility in the Phoenix heat, even for the sprint of qualifying, takes extreme stamina.

But, he's put at the back of the field...

The track:

Phoenix International, with the road course open for battle, is universally respected as a handling track, not a horsepower venue. Normally only 1 mile in the pure oval configuration, the Phoenix road course is really more curves than straightway. NASCAR turns one and two aren't even used.

Coming into this weekend, Riggins owned the AGT (American GT) track record at 59.365 seconds. (The old GTS record was 58.643 seconds.) So... without power steering Riggins goes out and puts in a 58.612 (92.746 mph), breaking even the GTS record! His time is the fastest of the GT category cars, with only 4 prototypes ahead of him on the grid, the fastest of these lighter prototypes is only 1.524 seconds per lap faster than Riggins' GTS smoker (at 57.088 per lap).

"We're going to have to spot the DP's (Daytona Prototypes) one fuel stop, because they're so much lighter than the GTS's", Tommy said in a press conference at the PIR media center immediately after qualifying. Additionally, the weight advantage gives the lighter prototypes a tire consumption advantage, particularly on such a tight-turned road course like Phoenix. Therefore, strategy, patience and good fortune with yellow flags will mean a lot to the Heritage team's hopes for a good finish tonight.

Back of the Pack:

After qualifying yesterday the team mechanics found evidence that the engine may have developed extraordinary wear, so it was yanked and replaced (working late into the night Friday) with a back-up motor, the work finished just in time for the noon-hour practice session today. Times in practice today were comparable to the qualifying record set yesterday. This engine replacement, under the Grand American Road Racing rule-book, puts the Heritage Mustang to the back of the ROLEX field. "It would be nice to start up at the front," Tommy said back in the garage yesterday, "but that doesn't really matter much. Just so long as they don't take away our pole award (dollars). We'll be back at the front before too long."

Grand American is including the fastest of the Grand-Am Cup cars in tonight's race, adding about 15 of the GS (Grand Sports) cars to the ROLEX milieu. These cars are about 6 seconds per lap slower than Riggins time. This will make for a very interesting field, probably more enjoyment for the fans, but greater frustration for drivers in faster GTS & prototype cars.

Care to place a bet on how many cars Tommy will pass on the first lap? The entire Heritage team is looking for a great start this evening at 6 pm. Look for the blue Mustang to do some serious overtaking at the race start. Drivers Tommy Riggins and Dave Machavern will share the driving duties this evening, swapping places during one of the (hopefully yellow flag) fuel stops.

Race Televised Live Saturday 3 May 2003 6 pm Phoenix time (same as Los Angeles time), 9 pm Eastern time - SPEED Channel.

-hm-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Tommy Riggins